Tim Ellis joins us to talk about where Relativity has been and where it’s going. Tim was in his twenties when he started Relativity Space with cofounder Jordan Noone six and a half years ago.
On today’s episode of Pathfinder, we’re joined by Tim Ellis, the CEO and cofounder of Relativity Space. Tim was in his twenties when he started Relativity Space with cofounder Jordan Noone six and a half years ago.
Fast forward to today. Relativity’s 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket is at the pad in Cape Canaveral and an orbital launch is “weeks away,” Tim tells us.
Relativity also recently announced that it’s secured more than $1.2B+ worth of launch agreements for the forthcoming, fully reusable Terran R rocket. There are more customer contract announcements to come, Tim says. In fact, just since we recorded 12 days ago, Relativity announced a highly ambitious commercial Mars mission with Impulse Space.
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- Tim’s non-linear path into aerospace at USC, where he was part of the first student group to launch a rocket to space and interned back-to-back-to-back at Blue Origin
- Then, Tim and Jordan would go on to get accepted into Y Combinator, cold-email Mark Cuban, and successfully pitch their pre-revenue, pre-product startup to other big investors.
- Relativity is scaling headcount quickly. Relativity had 100 employees before Covid; it now has 850 and expects to hit 1,000 soon.
- The company is also ramping up production, having expanded into a 1M square foot facility in Long Beach, CA. “Our momentum towards Terran R is significant,” Tim says.
- We walk through the unique parts of Relativity’s rocket-making stack, from propulsion to reusability to additive manufacturing.
- 3D printing is “the holy grail of automation technologies for aerospace,” Tim opines, and Relativity’s 3D printing efforts span a few hundred employees. Eventually, the company’s 3D printers may be useful in other industries.
- We ask Tim how he’s navigating market turbulence and whether Relativity A) has taken a valuation haircut, B) will need to raise again soon, or C) if it ever considered going public via SPAC.
- Tim shares his thoughts on the economics of launch and where the market is saturated vs. undersupplied.
…and much more. Over the course of an hour, our conversation took us from writing novels and Fight Club to interplanetary travel and chilling on Mars with a Corona. We hope you’ll learn as much as we did.
00:00 – Intro
1:23 – Settling Tim’s age, once and for all
5:03 – A non-linear path into aerospace and Tim’s passion for screenwriting and cinema
9:51 – Joining USC Rocket Lab
11:20 – Interning at Blue Origin back-to-back-to-back
12:48 – What % of Relativity’s employee base previously worked at SpaceX or Blue Origin?
17:32 – How the hell did you get Y Combinator to accept a rocket company?
18:36 – Incorporating, cold-emailing Mark Cuban, Relativity’s Y Combinator cohort, and the YC Mob 🙃
21:07 – How does a pre-revenue, pre-product rocket startup sell investors and what does it point to as a sign of progress or traction?
23:23 – Setting the scene for Relativity’s first orbital launch attempt with the Terran 1 rocket from Cape Canaveral
28:40 – Relativity’s tech stack
36:25 – Would Relativity consider selling 3D printers or making other large 3D-printed structures?
38:25 – Surveying the launch landscape…Tim shares his thoughts on where the launch market is still undersupplied
43:43 – Relativity’s $1.2 billion Terran R backlog is growing, with more commercial contracts to be announced
48:07 – How is Relativity navigating market turbulence and a potential R-word (recession)?
52:35 – Tim’s testimony to Congress & recruiting for the commercial space industry and building mission-driven teams
54:08 – The cast of characters attracted by making life multiplanetary
58:07 – What’s that behind Tim?
58:44 – How does Tim use Twitter?
Relativity is scaling headcount quickly. Relativity had 100 employees before Covid; it now has 850 and expects to hit 1,000 soon.
1:00:00 – Getting swole like Jeff Bezos and staying in touch with his former boss
1:01:06 – Does Tim have plans to travel to the Red Planet one day himself?